Veterans face a higher unemployment rate than civilians, for reasons that include a lack of civilian work experience and challenges transitioning to a new organization with a very different language and culture. In an effort to help veterans make the transition, Gulfstream Aerospace is sponsoring active-duty Army soldiers for a four-week internship program. The initiative is part of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Veterans Education Training and Transition (VET2) program, which lays claim to being the first of its kind in the nation.
VET2 began in August 2013 as a pilot program designed to help service members who had already left the military transition to the civilian workforce. “It took about a year to get corporate sponsors to fund the program and work out the details,” Dr. James Wilburn, military program director for Georgia Tech Professional Education, told AIN.
Wilburn, an Army Aviation Officer who separated from the service in 2012, was contacted by the university and asked to help develop and lead the program because of his background. “Georgia Tech had been looking for someone with both academic and military credentials, and I had just finished up my doctorate at Vanderbilt University. It was a perfect match,” Wilburn said.
The purpose of VET2 is to teach veterans how to transition from a military environment to a civilian organization and its own unique culture. “We’re not technology specific; we’re about teaching them to transition their existing military skills to a civilian purpose. We have companies that are looking for a wide diversity of skills, from information technology to hands-on mechanical work,” he said.
The Department of Defense recently approved a significant change to the program that allows active-duty personnel who will be separating from the service in the near future to participate. The first three active-duty personnel, all rotary-wing mechanics stationed at Hunter Army Airfield, began the program on January 12 and will be doing an internship with Gulfstream Aerospace.
“Gulfstream is pleased to be the first corporate sponsor for Georgia Tech’s VET2 active-duty military internship program,” said Don Moore, military outreach manager at Gulfstream. “As a Military Friendly Employer, Gulfstream appreciates the sought-after characteristics veterans bring to the civilian workforce, including ‘can do’ attitudes, global perspectives, punctuality, the ability to remain calm under pressure and proven leadership skills.”
VET2 carries no costs for service members. After completing the first week of academic training, veterans have the chance to demonstrate their skills in a three-week placement opportunity with an employer. At the end of the course, participants will not only earn a professional certificate from a world-renowned academic institution but will also be well positioned for landing a civilian job.
Wilburn said the next phase currently in the planning stages is to work with service members who have skill sets that are more challenging to find in the civilian market. “We’re looking at putting some of our professional education courses into play, such as marrying a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program with VET2. Our students are appreciative, hard charging and enthusiastic about moving into the next phase of their life. Facilitiating this program to help them make the transition is rewarding for me personally,” Wilburn said.